I wrote furiously for a couple of weeks – a sentimental scene of this father first holding his tiny infant, and a hot (both figuratively and literally) sex scene in Jamaica during a hurricane where the child is conceived. Then I imagined the protagonist having an intimate relationship with weather. So I wrote a monologue in which he waxes poetic about the flight of birds in a windstorm, the velocity of the wind in Wichita the day he was born, and the futility of weather prediction. But the story began in present time. I wanted to show how much he missed his daughter, so I had him talk to a video camera. Maybe he needed a friend. So I gave him a friend he could talk to. I wondered if this was the best way to go about writing an entire book.
I took a writing workshop series facilitated by Anna Mackay Smith, a wonderfully vivacious and talented director, actor and creative life coach. The fire was lit. I was writing. I hired her to be my life coach, because, like many people who WANT to do something creative, there were always a million reasons why I couldn’t. One of the first things she asked me is, “What do you want?” Simple question. I gave her what I thought was a simple clear answer, one we could set about moving toward. “I want to one day be able to say, I am a writer.” “Done!” she said. “You are a writer.” And she instructed me to make signs that read, “I am a Writer” and put them up all over my house. I did.
That was weird. Everywhere I looked, these goofy coloured marker scraps of paper asserting that the person who lived here thought they were a writer. Even putting up something that had the whiff of “affirmation” made me cringe a little, like that fellow on Saturday Night Live, who constantly affirmed in his wee voice, “I”m good enough. I’m smart enough, and by golly, people like me” or something to that effect. However, the sentiment was sincere and I allowed those little messages in.
I wrote a story about my mother and showed it to Anna. She suggested that I had a poet crying to get out, and that poet sprung out of the narrative and then retreated. She suggested I write the piece as if it was fiction. When I did that I discovered a tremendous freedom, and began to find my voice. A clear poetic voice that didn’t depend on fact.
So then I showed Anna what I had written for my novel-to-be. I was certain she would tell me that it was publication ready, or at least that it took her breath away. We opened the file on her computer and I took a sip of wine. She turned to me and studied me for a moment. “Are you ready for this? she asked.
“Oh yes!” I replied, sliding forward on the chair, gripping my wine glass.